New orchestra on the block–with a differenceBy Walter Ang
Philippine Daily Inquirer
9PO is the new orchestra in town. The group is an affiliate group of 9 Works Theatrical and “was formed to cater to the growing demand for professional musicians,” says conductor Joseph Tolentino.
“The ‘P’ stands for philharmonic, pit and pop—representing what 9PO is capable of servicing in terms of orchestral demand,” he pointed out.
“Traditionally, a philharmonic orchestra consists of an ensemble with a large number of musicians. Usually the repertoire consists of mainly classical pieces.
“A pop orchestra’s repertoire caters toward the general public outside of the classical realm, such as show tunes, popular movie themes, etc.
“A pit orchestra is an accompanying orchestra for works that require orchestral accompaniment. An example of such works would be musicals, ballets and operas. This was how 9PO started.”
Tolentino had been a musician in several 9 Works productions and was eventually tasked to be the musical director of the 2011 musical “Sweet Charity.”
“I was required to form a group just for the show. At first it was daunting. It was hard to find musicians and to get them to work together as one, rather than a premade ensemble where the musicians have played together for years,” he recalled.
They managed to get things off the ground during the show’s run.
“We realized that we had stumbled on something special and decided to turn the Sweet Charity Band into a resident orchestra for 9 Works Theatrical,” said Tolentino.
The new group had its debut as a pit orchestra for 9 Works’ “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” last year.
Born in Manila and raised in New York, Tolentino studied at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, the school featured in the 1980 movie “Fame” and its 2009 remake.
“Both movies are obviously a bit more over-the-top in some aspects, like the students dancing on tables,” he said, laughing. “This famous highlight from the movie did not happen in real life. At least, not while I was there. If it did, I probably missed all the fun.”
Award from Clinton
Tolentino said he joined as many ensembles as his schedule could permit. Aside from the orchestras in LaGuardia, he was a member of at least four other orchestras, and even performed a few times along with the New York Pops—the only symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular American music.
Tolentino graduated with high honors and received the Presidential Music Award accorded by former US President Bill Clinton.
“It’s hanging in my living room above my piano,” he said.
After graduation, Tolentino said he “wanted something different and chose the farthest place from New York I could think of: the Philippines.”
He had originally planned to complete his music degree (major in Piano under Raul Sunico) at University of Santo Tomas’ Conservatory of Music and return to New York.
“But things changed, as I began to enjoy living here,” he said. “The people I met here, including new ‘families’ such as 9 Works, sealed my decision to live here for good.”
Tolentino also took time to observe a unique trait among Filipino musicians. “The one thing I admire the most about [them] is their love and passion for their music,” he said. “In the US, there are many opportunities for musicians to develop their skills and talent at a young age, something many musicians here wished they had when they were children. However, this does not hinder their spirit.”
For now, Tolentino will be busy handling 9PO’s core of 13 musicians. “However, we have a roster of dozens of musicians we may call upon, depending on what the performance will require,” he said.
The orchestra is composed of professional musicians “all trained in the fields of classical, modern and contemporary or popular music, from the sonorous tones of the acoustic to the high-energy flavors of the electric. We can do classical, big-band, acoustic and Latin music,” he added.
Tolentino said he would also “oversee the different services that 9PO will be providing clients—from professional productions and corporate events to private functions like weddings, debuts and parties, even pit work for other theater productions, anything that helps contribute to the theater industry.”
He related that 9PO could also provide musical composition and arrangement services. “We can rearrange existing songs and music or come up with original pieces to suit our clients’ needs.”
9PO will provide music for 9 Works Theatrical’s summer acting-workshop recitals in May and for its production of “Grease” in November.
For inquiries on 9PO and more information about 9 Works’ summer acting workshops for kids, preteens, teens and adults starting April 8, call tel. 5575860, 5867105 or 0917-55405560, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.